Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: family (page 1 of 8)

Imperfect Parenting and the River of Goodness

One of my greatest parenting successes has been convincing my children that a trip to IKEA’s “Smaland” is barely a step down from COSI. We treat it like a museum or McDonald’s PlayPlace – an event designed around their fun. (Little do they know, mama is accumulating a cart full of garlic presses and organizational bins.)

So on the Random Friday With No School, I decided a trip would be the best use of our time. JJ was off to other productive work, so all 4 kiddos and I headed to Canton. The lady working Smaland was less than excited to see me (she tried to exclude both my youngest and my oldest, but we easily fell within the height requirements on all fronts), probably because we take up 2/3 of the available kid allotment. They had fun not jumping in the balls, and I found the necessary non-brass light fixture. The kids opted for lunch in the Ikea cafe, so we headed upstairs.

Prior to walking through the line, we had a team meeting to clarify expectations: once food was ordered and on a plate, there was no changing of the minds. Everyone executed.  The line was a tad tricky, and we made it through without tears until we sat down and the youngest discovered that french fries had not come with the meatballs he requested. Mama was going to share, but there was no convincing him of anything. Trading plates of meatballs didn’t work. I couldn’t just take the other kids’ food – I’ve learned this the hard way. You just end up with more tears. The other kids were looking at me, waiting as patiently as possible for ketchup while the baby of the family melted into a puddle on the chair. And in my arms.

It was clear there was nothing I could do to save the day. I was powerless until he actually put some food in his belly and overcame the Hangry. I couldn’t leave him to get the ketchup. I couldn’t get him to settle down.

And then, the oldest took a handful of his fries and laid them on his brother’s plate. The other two kids followed suit. They dished off food until the tears stopped. We were finally able to fetch the condiments without nasty looks.

While I had maintained most of my composure during The Episode, I know my Bigs felt the energy of my defeat and frustration. For the rest of the meal, my oldest was beyond helpful, refilling water and ketchup without being asked. He hugged me no less than 4 times.

In the midst of their mama’s powerlessness, my kids stepped up. They realized that to make the best of the situation, they would all have to come together and help one another. This is a lesson they could never learn if I were to continually make the problems go away.

I can preach to them that we belong to one another or tell them to serve and love using more than their words. These will be quotes on a printable until I give them opportunity to put on shoes and take the ideas for a run. Without the chance to do it, they may never know what it feels like to live their values, which we all know is a whole lot different than simply believing something.

I’ve never felt like a perfect parent, and I’m confident my kids are aware of my flaws, so “imperfect parenting” isn’t just about me and my shortcomings. I’ve heard other parents talk about how in our mistakes we can show our kids grace and the need for forgiveness. But I think accepting our imperfections has wider implications.

To parent imperfectly means to stop filling 100% of the holes for my kids and let them learn how to clean up a leak. I think we should give them a chance to let their heart whisper “hey, go get a towel!” and then allow them to feel the sense of goodness that comes from doing a good thing that has grown from their own place in the world.

What if kids learned to trust their ability to do what is right and good?  What if they learned they actually have the capacity to change a situation, even if it’s only in the enjoyment of a meal as a family? Isn’t that still something worth doing?

Goodness is like a stream running throughout the universe. Sometimes we’re swimming in it, and sometimes we’re not. But I’m not sure the Goodness River is something that you can toss your kids into; they have to learn to jump. As a parent, the best thing I can do is to dive in as often as I can, and assure them that they’ll float when I see them standing on the banks, contemplating a swim. And, as they come up from under the waters, greet them with a smile that shows them how proud you are that they’ve decided to take the plunge.

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Hit ’em in the nose

Several years ago, my dad and his brothers went to a boxing match. It was a kinda-big-deal match and they ended up with seats close to the action (I’m guessing a casino was involved). Not being huge followers of the sport, they were immersed in the excitement, with fans shouting all around them their encouragement on what the fighters should do next. Words like “jab” and “hook” and fancy boxing terms, probably. To join the excitement, and coincidentally at a lull in the noise, my father – proud daughter moment ahead – shouted, “hit ’em in the nose!”

The guy in the ring straight up looked at him.

Since that time, this tale has been told and retold within the extended family and it never gets less funny. Hit ’em in the nose is our solution to dance offs, card games, and toddlers bickering.

Yesterday, a quorum of Wingfields descended upon the Chiller North hockey ring to support the eldest two of the second generation cousins. It was like a circus car watching families arrive and join the group – we just kept coming. Being B’s senior year and last season, we self-determined to make as much ruckus (a family talent) possible.

While our skills at yelling and making a scene are well-practiced, our knowledge of hockey is rather limited. We took our cues from the parents of the kids on the rink, knowing when to be upset about a call or not. Meaning, when cousin Wendy informed the ref of a missed call for icing (which, btw, has nothing to do with cookies or cake, I’m sad to inform you), I simply yelled, “Yeah! What she said!” You know, because I’m there to show support. The 40 or so of us chanted his number and stomped our feet on the noisy bleachers.

Cousin B had a breakaway moment right in front of our whole family, so we were loudly supportive . Get it! Go! Come on, B! 

You know where this is going.

From the middle of our group… HIT ‘EM IN THE NOSE! Followed by uproarious laughter.

I’d like to make a list of things you should apparently not encourage at a highly-physical sporting event of young men and protective mamas:

1. Acts which require you to drop the gloves.

We learned our lesson after there was an incident of shouting, standing, leaning, talk-to-the-hand motioning, and more words. A mom from the other team responded, “that’s my son out there!”

Whoops.

Now, let me assure you, we are not nasty fans. We are hilarious. We were obvious about our love for our cousin and our ignorance of all hockey rules. We really couldn’t name where the other team was from nor did we really pay attention to the fact that another team was even on the rink. It was the B Show, with some other actors. So we were a tad sorry-not-sorry because, really, can you take anyone seriously when they open with cheers and an Arsenio Hall style “woot woot woot”? The only thing we were bitter about was the numbness of our toes.

One of my kids asked, legitimately confused, why the other mom was so upset. My best explanation was that some people believe that cheering for someone means we’re trying to be mean to everyone else. They mistakenly took personally that our love for one kid meant less love for hers. She believed that love and support were in limited supply and when she operated in that mentality, it was clear that her kid was getting ripped off and our B was getting “too much.”

While I love some aspects of athletics, this, my friends is a dangerous side effect. Healthy competition for personal betterment aside, there’s a real tendency to begin to believe the world only works in Us/Them, Home/Visitors dualities.

Support your kid. Cheer for wins, console for losses. Help them get better, remind them of their worth beyond the game. These are good things.

And can I offer a recommendation? For every hour you spend in the bleachers supporting your team, spend at least 2 hours at a table, reminding yourself that we belong to one another. Put yourself next to others, sharing food and passing drinks and remembering there doesn’t always have to be a “them” for you to experience good things.

Perhaps then you’ll be able to arrive at the field/gym/rink in a place of worthiness, able to appreciate that one of the kids out on the rink is having a memorable day, he’s being loved and supported by family from near and far, and you can just be glad for him. Or, you can be inspired and call up your siblings and cousins and uncles and say, “hey, you know, my kid has a game next Sunday, and though it’s sub-arctic temperatures in the rink, the games are free and fun and he would love it if you came and cheered him on.” And you would get to have day that all your family left saying, “that was so much fun, I love my family, and we should do that more often.”

Visit me elsewhere:

Who tells your story?

In case I didn’t shout it from the rooftops of social media enough, I married the best of husbands, best of men. He sent me to see Hamilton – I flew out the day after Christmas.

The number one question asked to me is, “was it worth it to see it live?” I mean, if you’ve listened to the soundtrack, you’ve heard 99% of the show. Nearly the entire thing is in song (as is Rent, my other favorite musical I sing to people ad nauseum).

The staging is fantastic and the movement of the choreography makes it worth the ticket price. There’s a hidden character that I’m grateful I read about before I went. The piece is so layered and brilliantly woven that,  as impossible as it seemed to me – having heard and dissected the themes hundreds of times before seeing it – I walked away with a better grasp of (one of) the true questions the story was out to reveal: Who tells your story?

It’s easy to sing, but watching Eliza walk across the stage and explain to the world that she chose to write herself back into the narrative broke me. She told his story, because of love.

Hamilton wanted to Live Big. “Don’t be surprised when you read about me in your history books.” His sense of limited time and limited life drove him to produce and work and drive and create and make change. In the words of 98% of pastors of today, he wanted to “make an impact”. The thought of his legacy drove him toward Bigness.

Yet.

The masses never truly told his story. Wall Street only speaks his name when the news crews are around covering a broadway play. Banks pay little tribute to him. The crowds rarely tell the story, the truest story, the story that captures your heart and not just your numbers.

But Eliza. Eliza. (Yes, I just sang that.) She tells his story. His writings, his soldiers. His heart.

We can do Great Things in this world. We can be World Changers. A Founding Father. A Global Economy Infrastructure Creator. All awesome, much needed. But that doesn’t give you your legacy.

Your love creates your legacy.

Hamilton was far from Perfect Husband (and the show is clear on that one), but he loved his wife and family. And that’s what I packed into my bag to bring home from NYC. You can do everything short of becoming President, and if you don’t love well, it’s not a great story. You can do big, great things for the masses, but if you can’t love the people under your roof, your story is mostly reduced to numbers.

Can I be real a second? Just a millisecond? Let down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second? 

This is hard for me. In the thick of it – convincing toddlers to quietly go (back) to bed or teaching for the 8 millionth time to put things away and treat our things with respect – it seems petty. Miniscule. After the 78th time of interrupting my attempts to put dinner on the table to intervene in a nerf gun war gone awry, I’d much rather turn my attention to the bigger battles of society. Truthfully, I feel like I might make more progress dismantling the patriarchy than my feeble attempts to keep a floor without socks strewn about everywhere. (WHO is wearing all these socks?!)

At the end of my days, even if I manage to cure world hunger, the millions of people fed won’t have my story. It will be told by those who I tuck in each night and by the one who always checks to make sure nothing is in the washing machine. The people who share my table and the deep center of my heart – they will tell my story.

Hamilton convinced me to fill the pages with material for them to tell the best story possible.

Visit me elsewhere:
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